Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas... See You Next Year!

... that being not quite 2 weeks!

Wishing you a joyful and blessed Christmas.  It's time to focus on family and home for the rest of the month.

See you in 2016!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Elf and His Friend

Sis and family came down for a visit, and the kid's 'elf on a shelf' Ziggy met our elf Fritz.  (Fritz is a vintage elf that had belonged to Himself's Mom.)  They thought it was awesome we had an elf 'watching' us too.  The fact that Fritz is small kind of amazed them too.  He's about a third of the size of Ziggy because he was a tree ornament.

When they left, Little Hoss forgot to get his reindeer toy.  To let Sis and Big J know it was safe and sound, I sent this photo to them.

Dec 20

It was so much fun posing them, I decided to finish out the elf season with a Fritz and Friend photo each morning.  To make life easier on me... I took all the photos at once.

Dec 21

"This is MY bed Fritz!"

Dec 22

Naughty Elf and Reindeer

Dec 23

"Hello Ladies!"

And most important of all...

Dec 24

Come Let Us Adore Him

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Piano at Chicago Union Station

Love this.  Take a few minutes to watch it all the way through.

Rob Bliss Creative partners with Amtrak to bring this "magical" piano to Chicago Union Station. The piano reacts in real-time to the environment, which includes playing impromptu duets with strangers and adding sound effects to everyday life.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Trinket: A Wee German House

Sliding the trinket calendar back to November 2003.  I had just left Bosnia and I had a long layover in Frankfort, Germany.  Long like in 18 hours overnight long.

I'm not into sleeping in airport chairs if I can help it, so I booked a room outside the airport at a hotel with shuttle service.  My carry-ons were packed accordingly so all was good.  After checking in, I took a cab to the opera house where I had dinner and saw a show.

The next day my flight didn't leave until around 2pm, so I booked a Greyline tour of downtown Frankfort.  What a blast!  We visited an area where the Christmas Market would be running that weekend.  There were a few vendors already set up and I did some quick shopping.

This is one of my trinkets.

Yes, very tourist... yet rather cute.

And a reminder of something I would get authentically someday when I get to come back to German.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Mediterranean Baked Feta

At a recent cooking class, we prepared an appetizer that was different from the 'same old' appetizers you always see.  To say it was the hit of the class session would be an understatement!

The recipe theme for the December Tea Time Treats was "sugar and spice".  I fudged a bit on the 'sugar'... instead of having white sugar, this uses honey instead.

Note:  Buy the best Feta you can find.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Orange Cranberry Toll Cookies

I love the basic cookie recipe for chocolate chip cookies, but not so much the chips and definitely not the nuts.  Himself says I'm just weird!  LOL 

So when I saw the December challenge at Improv Cooking was "cranberry and orange" I decided to try making a new version off of the Toll House recipe.

Orange Cranberry Toll Cookies

2 cups dried cranberries
Orange juice to cover cranberries

2 oranges for zest

Toll House Cookie base:

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt     
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Evening before, put cranberries into glass container and cover with orange juice.  Let sit so they plump up.   Next morning remove cranberries and let drain on paper towels for a couple hours, or longer.  (I drained in the morning and baked in the evening).

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Stir in cranberries.  Then zest the 2 oranges over the mixture, stir well. 

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. (At about 9 minutes start keeping an eye on them as they finish quickly!)

Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Kitty Treasure

Every spoiled kitty needs a big pile of toys to play with and a place to keep them.

I had this 'treasure chest' among my containers to upcycle for my studio.

Look at all the kitty toys... and there are only two in there that have been bought.  The rest are made or found.

Her first toys... her 'knots'.  The pink one was given to her by a judge at the cat show where we adopted her.  The rest are from fabric leftover when those lounging pants of mine caught fire.

She gets really excited when she sees these toys.  They are the plastic 'tabs' that come from a milk jug handle when it does get popped out.  She sends them all over like tiny hockey pucks!

In the "who would have thought it" category.  A strap that came around a pile of catalogs from Restoration Hardware.  She likes to hide this under a plastic bag to pounce on.

Foil balls... good for a few rounds of kitty soccer.

A wadded up Instant Breakfast envelope that missed the trash can... now the purrrfect dodge ball.

A shell piece stolen off my dresser.  Make noise + slide far = great fun.

Ditto for the ink cartridge cover.

Good for chewing and swatting.

Another favorite to chew on.

She does have three purchased toys.  A feather wand that is the absolute favorite toy (that stays in my desk drawer so it won't get shredded).  And two little mice and a fuzzy 'bug' that I had to pick up when I forgot to bring toys for her on a trip.

"Hey Mom!  What are you doing with my treasure chest?"

"There better not be anything missing!"

Monday, December 14, 2015

Seriously?? You Had To Park There??

There were at least 20 cars blocked in yesterday (with a half a dozen people actually sitting in their cars -- including me!) at Wally World today while this rude trucker took his sweet time unloading 3 racks of plants.

He could have parked a little farther down where no one would have been blocked.  He would have had to walk a bit more.  But no, everyone else could just wait on him instead.

Thanks a lot Joe for the 15 minutes we all sat there waiting on you.

German Christmas Market in TN

I discovered a new holiday activity for us... a German Christmas Market held at a local Lutheran church.  From the posts on its Facebook page it looked like a lot of fun with some high-end arts and craft vendor booths.

We weren't disappointed.  There was some very nice things for sale.

Loved this booth with wood works from Germany.

And this artist was incredible.

She paints in the style of the Old Masters.  My one purchase of the day was a print of a Magi with his gift.

These ceramics were fun.  Don't you love the caterpillar.  It would be great in a fairy garden.

Some nice gourd ornaments.

Handmade knives.

The whole time this group provided live Christmas music.  That's where Himself ended up hiding out.  (He can only take so much 'cute' before he starts looking for cover!)

There was a very unique aspect to this market... one that I'll write about next week!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Two Feet Move Your Body, Four Feet Move Your Soul...

Did you know that today is The Day of The Horse?

Hmmmm... on my calendar that comes 365 days of the year (and I'm noticing that Little Bird has the same calendar as I have).

I don't remember not wanting a horse.  Every mechanical horse had to be ridden (and I knew were they all were...).  Favorite ride at the carnival?  The ponies of course.  Favorite toy?  Model horses... Breyer and Hartland, and just about any other I could find.

You tell a gelding, 
Ask a stud, 
Discuss it with a mare.

And if it's a pony... 
you pray to God Almighty!


I probably learned more about 'staying on top' from that snotty Shetland than any other horse... from my very first ride on him.

That first time was supposed to be just a lead-line trip around the stable yard.  One of step-grandfather's grand kids was leading Midget with me happy to my bones.  Then that snotty pony jerked the line out of his hand!  

Off we went to the pasture.  I was younger than in the above photo and was afraid to 'bail out'.  Whenever anyone came close to try to catch him, off we went at a canter.  I was a little bit afraid but that rapidly changed to ecstatic... this was WONDERFUL!

That day was my first riding lesson.  Step-grandfather walked out to the pasture; staying just outside the zone that sent Midge off, he quietly told what I was to do in order to control the pony.  It wasn't too awfully long before I had that brat trotting in figure eights.

After that many rides were taken... and never again on a lead line!

There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a (wo)man.


It didn't take long before I was too tall to ride Midge any more.  He was given to a family with small kids and I graduated up to riding Bozo, Step-grandfather's grade Quarter Horse gelding.

Since I was too small to hoist the heavy Western saddle onto his back, I did without.  Bozo and I were all over that farm.  As I grew more confident in my ability, I was soon hopping over fallen logs and narrow ditches.  Yes... bareback.  I could stick to him like a burr!

"A girl's place is on a horse."


I've told Himself that Dutchman is the reason we are married.  Not my horse, he belonged to a classmate... who became a friend largely because she had him.  Said friend ended up marrying Himself's brother and we were both in the wedding party.  Fourteen months later we were married.

"Throw your heart over the fence and your horse will follow it."


After we married, we lived at Ft. Bragg for four years.  During that time I took 'hunt seat' riding lessons on a schooling horse.  Cam had a nice jump and a cast iron mouth.  Riding him was like trying to hold in a tractor!  

 "If you've never fallen off a horse... you probably haven't been riding long enough."

Storm (aka Bud)

Once we came to Ft. Campbell I started volunteering to work at the stables for free riding.  At that time it was great.  Miles and miles of trails through the woods and you could go out without a guide.  

I got the chance to 'lease' Storm in exchange for preparing him to be one of the stables new trail horses.  I got him just a week or so after Himself was deployed to Desert Storm (his unit was one of the first in).  Having Storm gave me something to do.

The above photo was taken about an hour, maybe two, before my first 'horse wreck'.  I was coming back from an organized overnight trail ride.  One of the stable employees broke every rule in the book... she let friends come along free... and one brought a stallion.  At one point the stud was freaking out over a mare who had come into season.  Storm had not been all that long been a gelding, and thought he had something to add to the 'conversation'.  He was seriously trash-talking at the stud.  I got him away to the back of the group when the stud must have said some thing like "Yo mama was a plow horse!".  Storm yelled back... both reared up and Storm, who was on an incline KEPT going up... and over.  I bailed as fast as I could but he ended up landing across my left hip and thigh.

My first trip to the ER and he had to be trailered back to the stables.  Saddle was busted all to pieces.

Long story short, I had no breaks but was black/blue/green/red from calf to shoulder blade, with a damaged nerve sheath that runs under my hip.  Storm was lame for a couple weeks.  Five weeks later I was released to ride again.  I continued training Storm for another 5 months, then he was placed out on the stable line where he was considered a very well behaved mount.

"Every rider has that one special horse... that one horse who changes everything about them."


My once-in-a-lifetime horse.  

Plain as a mud fence, with a bull neck and a Roman nose.

She would do anything for you and had more sense than most people I know.  She could be sassy when I rode her, but put a child up on her and she was a gentle as you could ever want.  There's not a horse on this planet that I would have taken over her.  I lost her to laminitis.

The hole is still there in my soul.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Travel Trinket: Guatemala Jade

After our cruise left Nicaragua, we headed next for Guatemala.  For our excursion we boarded a bus for a long ride to Lake Atitlan.  As the bus came down the hill towards the lake, the vendors came running after it.  I thought the Maasai ladies were aggressive sales people... they are lightweights compared to the Mayan ladies!

I love bargaining, so I watched carefully as they thronged around the first bus.

There was definitely a feeling of desperation that I did not feel with the Maasai.  Maybe it was the fact there were WAY more vendors competing for each tourist's attention.

They definitely fought to get your attention.  But I noticed they did not actually go as far as touching/grabbing the shoppers... which is a good thing.

So I jumped into the thick of it.  

As soon as I saw this necklace, I knew I found 'it'.

Green and purple... my favorite colors.

Our guide later told me that the pendant was Guatemalan jade.

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